Exercise physiologists always seek to find the most efficient workout — one taking the shortest amount of time yet producing the greatest results. From a consumers’ perspective, it can seem like a new fitness fad hits the market every single day. But while some fitness models trends do deserve flash-in-the-pan status, other programs, based upon science with input from leading doctors, deserve more critical and gym rat attention.
Two such workouts are the PHAT workout and the PHUL workout, one designed by a physician and the other by a leading expert in the health and fitness industry. Both work on the principle of hypertrophy to spur maximum muscle growth in a short period. Read on to discover more about these two emerging trends and see which one, if not a combination of both, may work best for you.
What Is Hypertrophy, Anyway?
Muscular hypertrophy refers to the conditions leading to an increase in skeletal muscle size through performing specific intensities of exercise at certain intervals. When you work out, you create microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. As this heal, they grow stronger at the torn places.
In hypertrophy, though, the actual muscle cells grow bigger. When combined with the healing tears, hypertrophy results in the signature bulging biceps so coveted by professional bodybuilders and powerlifters. It’s important to vary your lifting intensity to allow adequate time for power days, hypertrophy days and rest days.
What Is the PHAT Workout?
The Power Hypertrophy Adaptive Training, or PHAT workout, was designed by Dr. Layne Norton, a Ph.D. in nutritional science and former professional bodybuilder. This workout features a five-day schedule, with two days dedicated to power, three days devoted to hypertrophy training and two rest days.
It’s important to note in both the PHAT and the PHUL workout, individuals are permitted to perform light cardiovascular exercise and flexibility training on rest days. They can even do light training for their core, wrists, calves and secondary muscles as long as this does not interfere with the five days of weight and powerlifting training.
One benefit of the PHAT program is achieving gains in a relatively small period of time. The power days focus on progressively heavy reps performed at roughly 85% of full capacity — if the max you can bench is three reps at 200 pounds, you’ll start your power days at 170. During the hypertrophy days, you perform higher repetitions, as many as 15-20, but at 65-70% of your 3-5 pound max weight. Proponents of the plan report busting through plateaus using this method.
What Is the PHUL Workouts?
While both PHAT and PHUL incorporate hypertrophy training as part of the program, they work on different schedules. Unlike PHAT where you hit the gym five days per week, with PHUL, or Power Hypertrophy Upper Lower training, you reserve the heavy lifting to four days weekly.
In the PHUL workout, designed by fitness expert and pro bodybuilder Jim Wendler, you perform two power days and two hypertrophy days. On your power days, you do perform slightly more reps of certain exercises that you do with PHAT. Your hypertrophy days are roughly the same, except instead of splitting upper-body days between chest and triceps, back and biceps, you perform all upper body hypertrophy on one day.
What Is the Best Workout Schedule?
When both workouts are compared side by side, gains in muscular strength, size, and power were similar between the two groups. And any form of strength training exercise helps to prevent injury by not only toughening muscles but also by building bone mass which prevents breaks. Getting regular weight training also helps prevent repetitive stress injuries such as back injuries from activities of daily living.
Professional bodybuilders may find the increased muscular concentration found in the PHAT workout helps them prep for competition slightly better. However, any type of hypertrophy creates temporary swelling in the muscles, providing the definition competitors need for battle.
Some athletes and powerlifters choose to alternate the two programs, following one for six weeks, then the next for the subsequent six weeks. This can help work for different muscle groups more effectively, as can varying the medium like using machines for some exercises and free weights on others.
Either PHAT or PHUL Gets You the Gains You Want
When you try to build strength and power, either the PHAT or PHUL workout can help you achieve your training goals. Give one of these weight training methods a go for the next few weeks. The gains you make may impress you!
Guest Contribution: Kate Harveston is a leading women’s health writer and the founder of So Well, So Woman.